What’s Brewing in Madhya Pradesh? Understanding the BJP-Congress Power Struggle


What’s Brewing in Madhya Pradesh? Understanding the BJP-Congress Power Struggle

Illustration: Aishwarya Nayak

The Madhya Pradesh CM’s position is currently the subject of a hotly contested game of “Whose Chair Is It Anyway?” following Jyotiraditya Scindia’s move from Congress to BJP. Scindia’s decision – wherein he was joined by 22 Congress MLAs in resigning from the party – has thrown the power structure of MP’s government in disarray, exposing Congress Chief Minister Kamal Nath to a takeover bid from the opposition BJP.

To understand why Nath’s CM post might be in jeopardy, one has to understand the composition of MP’s state assembly. The house has 230 members in total. In the 2018 state election, Congress and its allies won 120 of those 230 seats, placing them clear of the 116-member majority mark. On the strength of these victories, Congress formed a government with Nath at the helm. This decision is considered by experts to be one of the triggers behind Scindia’s decision to quit the party, as he reportedly felt side-lined after playing a pivotal role during the election campaign.

Once again, Scindia has played a pivotal role, this time in a development that might see Nath’s government dissolved for failing to prove a majority in the house. If the resignations of the 22 MLAs are accepted, the majority mark in the assembly will be adjusted to 104. This new, revised majority mark puts BJP, with 107 MLAs of its own, within striking distance of forming a new government in MP.

However, the face and CM candidate of any BJP takeover bid is not likely to be Scindia, but former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was the incumbent in 2018’s election. This hasn’t come in the way of newfound bonhomie blossoming between the BJP stalwart and newcomer, with Scindia visiting Chouhan at his residence following his move.

The board seems to be set, but where are the pieces?

Meanwhile, CM Kamal Nath has presented a calm and composed front during this topsy-turvy period of his term, despite the possibility that it might end soon. The state Congress has written to the governor, seeking the dismissal of the 16 MLAs and six cabinet ministers who joined Scindia in jumping ship. Nath has requested MP Governor Lalji Tandon to conduct a floor test in the house tomorrow, confident of proving his majority.

The board seems to be set, but where are the pieces? Scindia himself has returned to MP after meeting with Home Minister Amit Shah. Meanwhile, the MLAs who left in his wake have been holed up in a hotel in Bengaluru. Some of these MLAs have claimed they were misled by Scindia and do not wish to resign. The Congress has flown its MLAs to a hotel in Jaipur, while the BJP has moved their MLAs to a hotel in Gurugram. Clearly, political necessity trumps coronavirus travel precautions for MP’s power players at the moment.

This drama is sure to have more twists and turns before all is said and done. For now, all observers can do is wait for the results of tomorrow’s floor test.